Saturday, April 16, 2011

Short Circuit a Virtual Paper about Electronics 'n Stuff

I've been trying to find a easy way to aggregate the vast amount of information and news that every day gets dumped on my Twitter timeline. Thanks to the folks of SmallRivers and their service I put together a list of news sources about the electronics industry and related stuff.

Feel free to subscribe and follow, and if you are interested to be included in the list just send me a tweet at @jamodio.

Read Short Circuit here


Tools: An Engineer's Dream, New Agilent InfiniVision 2000 & 3000 X-Series

InfiniiVision 3000-X Series
Reproduced with Permission, Courtesy of Agilent Technologies, Inc.
When doing electronic systems design or if electronics is a serious hobby for you, when the need arises to visualize a signal, not having the right instruments is like trying to navigate without a map and a compass, or in modern times without a GPS.

When I'm talking about visualizing signals obviously I'm referring to an oscilloscope. There is plenty of information and tutorials on-line about oscilloscopes so I won't get into that on this article. I've been involved with electronics for more than 35 years, and through my career I used, touched and why not blown away many oscilloscope brands and models.

Since my early days at technical school I had a tremendous admiration for a company that has been since then one of the leaders in developing and manufacturing electronic measuring instruments, I'm talking about Hewlett Packard. As you may know in 1999 the test and measurement division spin-off from HP to form Agilent Technologies, with a quite successful initial public stock offering raising more than $2 billion.

I remember from those early days the anxiety and excitement that preceded the arrival on the mail of two of my favorite publications, the Hewlett Packard Journal and the HP Annual Catalog. I was drooling browsing page after page of the catalog, something I still do today when I browse Agilent's website or their latest catalogs that they still produce.

There is no doubt that when talking about quality oscilloscopes, Hewlett Packard and Tektronix were the two brands that we heard more often, years later with the introduction of digital scopes other companies like LeCroy and very recently Rohde Schwarz entered the scene to compete with the two predominant leaders.

While I believe the oscilloscope is a must have instrument, if you work with digital electronics, and like in my case where I do design, consulting, and research & development in embedded microcontroller applications, another very useful instrument is the logic analyzer, but despite the fact that digital signals are "digital", any signal is still an analog waveform, then there are cases where you need an oscilloscope to inspect a digital signal, or a logic analyzer to analyze a group of digital signals, or what in some situations is a plus, a combination of oscilloscope and logic analyzer, a MSO or Mixed Signal Oscilloscope, where you can inspect and correlate on the same display both analog and digital signals.

Thanks to the on-line big auction house, my fascination with Hewlett Packard instruments (also calculators and the HP Series 80 desktop computers), turned me into a collector and I was able to put together an interesting collection of gear from HP.

On the picture you will find a 1650B Logic Analyzer, a 1652B Logic Analyzer with Digital Scope (sort of an ancient MSO), a pair of 3478A multimeters, a 4951C Protocol Analyzer (I also have a 4952A), a 3476A Digital Multimeter, the intriguing for some 5005A Signature Multimeter, the Batman & Robin of basic digital troubleshooting the 545A Logic Probe and 547A Current Tracer, and believe or not the 548A Logic Clip. Some of the gear is connected via HP-IB to the HP 85 on the bottom left. Ohh yes, before you mention it, there is a pair of Tektronix scopes too, an old analog 2246 and a digital TDS224.

But the interesting thing is that today you can have all that stuff, and most obviously better and with many more features, in a single, compact and beautiful instrument.

While I enjoy my collection and still use many of the instruments I have on my bench, for long time I've been craving to have one of the new Mixed Signal Oscilloscopes or MSO. For a while my dreams were filled with images from the Tektronix MSO4000 series or the more expensive InfiniiVision series from Agilent Technologies.

But I was recently blown away and the desire for a Tek went instantly to the trash can when I discovered the announcement of the InfiniiVision 2000-X and 3000-X series from Agilent. WOW, before this series there was nothing and there is still nothing to compete with Agilent on this range of specs and pricing. Not only impressed by the technical specs, the design, and the pricing, I was also impressed about Agilent's move to capture this abandoned segment of the market.

I think that Dave Jones from EEVblog did an excellent job reviewing and tearing down this new series, so I'm embedding on this article his videos about the new InfiniVision series 2000 and 3000-X from Agilent.

Agilent's InfiniiVision 2000-X Oscilloscope Review by Dave Jones:

Agilent's InfiniiVision 2000-X Oscilloscope Teardown by Dave Jones:

Agilent's InfiniiVision 3000-X Oscilloscope Review by Dave Jones:

Agilent's InfiniiVision 3000-X Oscilloscope Teardown by Dave Jones:

I agree with many of Dave's comments, including that some of the options such as the Waveform Generator or the LAN/VGA module feel a little bit pricey. My preferred choice would probably be the 200MHz MSOX3024, with obviously the serial decode option and the LAN module.

Unfortunately I don't have today the budget but I hope to have soon the opportunity to put my hands in one of these (I'd not venture as Dave to take it apart), meanwhile I recommended this new series to several friends and colleagues, I strongly believe that it was a brilliant move by Agilent to capture this segment of the market that was previously abandoned.
My kudos then to Agilent Technologies for this impressive and beautiful product line.